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The father who helped his son cross the finish line at the Olympics has died

Great Britain's Derek Redmond limps to the finish line after tearing his hamstring at the 1992 Olympic Games, helped by his father Jim.
S&G/PA Images via Getty Images
Great Britain's Derek Redmond limps to the finish line after tearing his hamstring at the 1992 Olympic Games, helped by his father Jim.

Jim Redmond, the dad who was at the heart of one of the most memorable — and moving — moments in Olympic history died on Sunday at age 81. The news was reported by the British Olympic Association and Reuters.

The story begins at the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona. Derek Redmond was a sprinter for Great Britain, seeking to overcome the injuries that had plagued him — he'd had five surgeries, including one on his Achilles tendon with less than four months before the Games. His Olympic dreams had been dashed four years earlier at the 1988 Games in Seoul when he tore his Achilles an hour before the race.

Redmond's pursuit of a medal in Barcelona in the 400 meters started off well, as he notched the fastest time in the prelims and won his quarterfinal heat.

In the semifinals, Redmond charged out of the blocks and looked strong on the first straightaway. But shortly before the race's halfway mark, he suddenly grimaced in pain and grabbed the back of his right thigh: his hamstring had torn. He crumpled to the track in pain and dismay, as the rest of the pack sprinted on.

Alone on the track, Redmond stood and began hopping on his left foot — careful to remain in his lane — determined to finish the race. The crowd stood and cheered as Redmond limped slowly toward the finish line.

Then a figure emerged from alongside the track: Redmond's dad, Jim. (Who was dressed, it should be noted, in perfect dad-wear of the early '90s: white crew socks and sneakers, roomy shorts, and a Nike hat emblazoned with "Just Do It.")

British runner Derek Redmond limps around the track toward the finish line at the 1992 Olympic Games after tearing his hamstring, as his father Jim races after him to offer help. Jim Redmond died this week at age 81.
/ S&G/PA Images via Getty Images
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S&G/PA Images via Getty Images
British runner Derek Redmond limps around the track toward the finish line at the 1992 Olympic Games after tearing his hamstring, as his father Jim races after him to offer help. Jim Redmond died this week at age 81.

Waving off officials who tried to get him off the track, Jim Redmond ran up to his son, putting an arm around his waist. Derek turned and wept on his father's shoulder. Together, father and son walked the final meters of a race now long decided.

The Olympic Committee has called the finish "one of the most inspirational moments in Olympic history."

Twenty years later, Jim Redmond was selected to be one of the torchbearers during the nationwide torch relay for the 2012 Games in London.

"I saw my (son) having a problem and it was my duty to help," he told CBS News in 2012. "I actually went on the track to try to stop him inflicting further damage to himself. It was Derek's idea. ... He asked me to get him back in that lane and I offered him a shoulder to lean on."

Jim Redmond was selected to be a torchbearer in the nationwide torch relay before the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Andrew Redington / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Jim Redmond was selected to be a torchbearer in the nationwide torch relay before the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Derek Redmond recalled that at first, his father tried to talk him out of continuing through his agony.

"He was telling me that I had nothing to prove and that I didn't need to do this, but I told him I was going to finish. Then he said that we would do it together," he told the BBC in 2012.

"So we did, and I limped over the line in tears," the son remembered.

What happened that day was pure instinct, Jim Redmond told Sports Illustrated in 2012. "Everyone does it. It just so happens that most people think about doing it, but I actually went on there to help."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.